A Ruler for Israel
December 14, 2017 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
The birth of Christ, perhaps, was the most promised and anticipated event in the history of mankind. For centuries, the Jews heard and held onto prophecies of one to come who would bring deliverance, justice, peace, and a kingdom. Part of the wonder of Christmas is seeing those prophecies fulfilled in the birth of Christ. God promised, and God fulfilled. Our faith in the promise-keeping God is bolstered by celebrating the “good news of great joy” of the birth of Christ. This month, let’s consider a few of those Old Testament promises and their fulfillment in Christ. This is part three of a four-part series.
I have noticed this month that these Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah were, for the most part, given during times of distress. This serves to emphasize that the birth of Jesus was God’s action on behalf of distressed people. We live in a world wracked by sin and the effects of sin. We need God’s intervention to bring healing, restoration, and redemption. This is exactly what the promised Messiah has come to do.
The significance of one OT messianic prophecy is often overlooked because of how the verse is used in the New Testament. In Matthew 2, when the wise men from the east ask Herod where the king of the Jews was to be born, the chief priest and scribes give the answer: “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel’” (Matt. 2:5-6). And so, this quote of Micah 5:2 becomes merely a birth location announcement. God has so much more, however, to share with his people through the prophet Micah.
Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah, writing during the late 8th century BC, while the northern kingdom, Israel, was leveled by the Assyrian empire and the southern kingdom, Judah, faced an uncertain future. While Isaiah gave hope through his messianic prophecies of a virgin birth (Is. 7) and a child named Mighty God (Is. 9), Micah wrote his promise of a ruler born in Bethlehem. What was God communicating through his prophet?
- God is Faithful to Keep Promises. While conquering empires seem to threaten the future of God’s people, God promises that a ruler will be born from Bethlehem. Bethlehem, of course, is David’s home town. So Micah 5:2 serves as a reminder of God’s promise to David (2 Samuel 7) and an encouragement to God’s people, in the midst of great distress, that God will not neglect his promises.
- The Messiah Uniquely is Equal with God. Matthew’s quotation of Micah 5:2 leaves out the last phrase of the verse: “whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” One is to be born in Bethlehem whose coming is from ancient days. This description does not fit any human sensitivities. God is called the Ancient of Days (see Dan. 7:13) not to call him old, but to identify that he has no beginning; he’s timeless. This ruler born in Bethlehem also is timeless, or eternal. He is one with God and superior to any human king. Perhaps Herod’s advisors left that part out because they didn’t want to upset him further.
- This King Will Bring Peace. Throughout history, kings and kingdoms have bad raps. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, right? What will be different with this ruler from Bethlehem? Matthew goes beyond Micah 5:2 to include the first line from verse 4: “And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord.” A shepherd-king. Not one to rule-over and domineer people, but to serve, protect, feed, and care. Jesus is the unique king who lays down his life for his people. And so, as Micah 5:5 says, “He shall be their peace.” In the face of the “Herods” of this world, we need King Jesus.
- God has an Appointed Time for the Restoration. Micah 5:3, in the middle of this hopeful promise, we read this curious line: “Therefore he shall give them up until the time…” To “give them up” speaks about God’s ordained plan to allow his people to endure hardship and suffering “until the time.” We read something similar in 2 Corinthians 5:5, “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God.” What is “this very thing”? “Light momentary affliction,” as Paul calls it in 4:17. God has set and promised a particular time when the Ruler born in Bethlehem brings peace, but until that time, his people endure affliction. It’s his plan. Where do we find hope in that plan? No matter what hardship, distress, pain, affliction, or suffering we may endure, none of it is outside of God’s plan and none of it threatens the final promise of deliverance. It is secure in God’s plan.
Let us rejoice in the ruler born in Bethlehem and long for his final coming to establish his kingdom!